Airline exec: Pilot on fatal flight shouldn’t have been flying

The tail from Colgan Air Flight 3407 lies among the wreckage at the crash site.
An airline executive whose plane crashed earlier this year said although the pilot was "a fine man by all accounts," had the airline "known what we know now … he would not have been in that seat."

Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, New York, on February 12, killing all 49 on the plane and one person on the ground. After the deadly accident, it was revealed by Colgan Air that the pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow, had failed five pilot tests, known as ‘check-rides,’ three of which occurred before he joined the airline. Renslow had revealed only one of those failures to the airline, according to Colgan. Philip Trenary, president and CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, which is the parent company of Colgan Air, told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Thursday that while “a failure on a check-ride is not necessarily a reason for someone not to fly, it depends on what kind of failure it is.” “The failures that we were unable to see were the basic fundamental failures that you would not want to have,” Trenary told the hearing, which was examining relationships between regional airline networks and safety issues. “Let me stress one thing, Capt. Renslow was a fine man by all accounts,” Trenary said. But he added, “Had we known what we know now, no, he would not have been in that seat.” In response to speculation that Renslow was impaired by fatigue, Trenary told the committee the fatigue policy of both Pinnacle and Colgan airlines is clear. “If a pilot is fatigued for any reason, all they have to do is say so and they are excused from duty. The night of (Flight) 3407, we did have 11 reserve pilots available.”

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Colgan has insisted that pilot fatigue was not a factor in the crash, noting that Renslow had “nearly 22 consecutive hours of time off before he reported for duty on the day of the accident.” There were also reports that Renslow’s co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw, was feeling ill and had considered backing out of the flight, according to a cockpit voice recorder transcript released by the National Transportation Safety Board. The flight, which was part of the Continental Connection schedule, plunged into a house in Clarence Center, New York. According to investigators, the crash resulted from Renslow’s incorrect response to a precarious drop in air speed. Renslow reportedly overrode an emergency system known as a stick pusher, which sends the plane into a dive so it can avoid a stall and regain speed.